Mountain States

Ingraffea’s Copy and Paste Op-Ed for the Casper Star-Tribune

This past weekend, the Casper Star-Tribune published what they probably thought was an “exclusive” op-ed from anti-fracking activist Tony Ingraffea.  As it turns out, it’s largely a direct cut-and-paste job from his thoroughly debunked New York Times op ed that ran back in July. To sneak it past the editors, Ingraffea’s PR team reordered a few paragraphs, made a few tweaks to phrasing here and there, and then gave it a new title.

Don’t believe us?  Have a look below:

New York Times – “Gangplank to a Warm Future” (July 28, 2013)   Casper Star-Tribune – “Dangers of hydraulic fracturing in shale” (October 27, 2013)
As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I can assure you that this gas is not “clean.” As a longtime oil and gas engineer who helped develop shale fracking techniques for the Energy Department, I know these technological advancements have not equated to making oil and gas development a cleaner extractive industry.

 

And methane is leaking, though there is significant uncertainty over the rate. But recent measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado and Utah found leakage rates of 2.3 percent to 17 percent of annual production, in the range my colleagues at Cornell and I predicted some years ago. This is the gas that is released into the atmosphere unburned as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, and also from pipelines, compressors and processing units. Those findings raise questions about what is happening elsewhere. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules to reduce these emissions, but the rules don’t take effect until 2015, and apply only to new wells. Another problem is that methane routinely leaks from these unconventional wells. Though there is significant uncertainty over the rate, recent measurements by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at gas and oil fields in California, Colorado and Utah found leakage rates of 2.3 percent to 17 percent of annual production, in the range my colleagues at Cornell and I predicted some years ago. This is the gas that is released into the atmosphere unburned as part of the hydraulic fracturing process, and also from pipelines, compressors and processing units. Those findings raise questions about what is happening elsewhere. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new rules to reduce these emissions, but the rules don’t take effect until 2015, and apply only to new gas wells.

 

Multiple industry studies show that about 5 percent of all oil and gas wells leak immediately because of integrity issues, with increasing rates of leakage over time. With hundreds of thousands of new wells expected, this problem is neither negligible nor preventable with current technology. Multiple industry studies show that about 5 percent of all oil and gas wells leak immediately because of integrity issues, with increasing rates of leakage over time. With hundreds of thousands of new wells expected, this problem is neither negligible nor preventable with current technology.

 

Pressures under the earth, temperature changes, ground movement from the drilling of nearby wells and shrinkage crack and damage the thin layer of brittle cement that is supposed to seal the wells. And getting the cement perfect as the drilling goes horizontally into shale is extremely challenging. Once the cement is damaged, repairing it thousands of feet underground is expensive and often unsuccessful. The gas and oil industries have been trying to solve this problem for decades. Pressures under the earth, temperature changes, ground movement from the drilling of nearby wells, and shrinkage crack and damage the thin layer of brittle cement that is supposed to seal the wells. And remember, getting the cement perfect as the drilling goes horizontally into shale or other tight formations is extremely challenging. Once the cement is damaged, repairing it thousands of feet underground is expensive and often unsuccessful. The oil and gas industry has been trying to solve this problem for decades.

 

The scientific community has been waiting for better data from the E.P.A. to assess the extent of the water contamination problem. That is why it is so discouraging that, in the face of industry complaints, the E.P.A. reportedly has closed or backed away from several investigations into the problem. Perhaps a full E.P.A. study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, due in 2014, will be more forthcoming. In addition, drafts of an Energy Department study suggest that there are huge problems finding enough water for fracturing future wells. The scientific community has been waiting for better data from the EPA to assess the extent of the water contamination problem. That is why it is so discouraging that, in the face of industry complaints, the EPA reportedly has closed or backed away from several investigations into the problem. Perhaps a full EPA study of hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, due in 2014, will be more forthcoming. In addition, drafts of an Energy Department study suggest that there are huge problems finding enough water for fracturing future wells.

 

We have renewable wind, water, solar and energy-efficiency technology options now. We can scale these quickly and affordably, creating economic growth, jobs and a truly clean energy future to address climate change. Political will is the missing ingredient. Meaningful carbon reduction is impossible so long as the fossil fuel industry is allowed so much influence over our energy policies and regulatory agencies. Policy makers need to listen to the voices of independent scientists while there is still time. We have renewable wind, water, solar and energy-efficiency technology options now. We can scale these quickly and affordably, creating economic growth, jobs and a truly clean energy future. Political will is the missing ingredient. Protection of our water and air, as well as meaningful carbon reduction is impossible so long as the fossil fuel industry is allowed so much influence over our energy policies and regulatory agencies. Policy makers need to listen to the voices of independent scientists while there is still time.

 

In a 737-word op-ed, Ingraffea copied and pasted over half of it from an op-ed he published elsewhere, presumably under an arrangement of exclusivity (according NYT’s op-ed submission guidance page, “All submissions must be original, and exclusive to The Times”). Apparently anti-fracking activists are so strapped for ideas that they’re just repeating the same nonsense verbatim and hoping no one notices.

What’s even worse than Ingraffea’s lazy op-ed submission is the fact that the source from which he lifted it didn’t exactly receive the highest marks for quality or veracity from the scientists and experts who gave it a look the first time.

When the original version of this op-ed ran in the Times, waves of criticism came in not long after the ink had dried. Michael Levi, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted, “Is there any value in responding to this stuff anymore? The Cornell + NOAA studies have been ripped up repeatedly.”  He later added, “Is there value in debating people who don’t want to think?” Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist from the University of Chicago, described Ingraffea’s op-ed this way: “It is more a matter of distorting science in order to support a preconceived political agenda.”

Perhaps Ingraffea thought he could pull a fast one on the folks in Casper – people out in Wyoming don’t actually read the Times, right? – or maybe he just thought his original piece was so good, and so important, that it would have been a continuing disservice to deprive the Star-Tribune’s readership of it for one second longer.

Regardless, he just got caught.

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